Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies

Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies

Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies

Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies

Synopsis

This work examines the impact of macroeconomic conditions on public support for the government in Britain, France, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

Excerpt

The Government's responsibility for the economy is a fundamental assumption of the contemporary dialogue between the parties and the electorate.

--David Butler and Donald Stokes, Political Change in Britain, 1976

Western Europe's economic performance since World War II has been a tale of rapid growth and subsequent decline, followed by a prolonged period of uncertainty and transition. and even though the different national economies have at times performed with quite varied success, the overall long-term trajectories of economic development have been relatively similar in most parts of Europe since the end of the Second World War. This study seeks to determine whether political actors--and if so, which ones--are blamed or credited by the mass public for the performance of the macroeconomy. Therefore, it is important to note that an investigation such as this benefits from, and depends on, variation in economic indicators, both over time and across countries. However, together with cross-national variation in indicators of economic performance, there also appear to be a number of historical similarities in the countries examined in this study, which allow me to gauge the reaction of West European mass publics to critical, and shared, changes in economic performance. This chapter describes the trajectories of economic performance in the five coun-

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